The ending of act II answers the question set up at the opening of the act, “Will the Proctors be caught up by the witch hunt?” The answer is yes, and Elizabeth is accused by Abigail of being a witch and is taken away. This section of act II begins with Proctor, Elizabeth, Mary, Hale, Herrick, Francis, Giles and Cheever still in Proctors house. Cheever has come to arrest Elizabeth. Mary made a doll in court for Elizabeth, and a needle was found in it. Cheever says that Abigail was stabbed by a needle that night, and that Abigail accuses Elizabeth of using witchcraft. Abigail was sat next to Mary in court while she made the doll, and aware it was for Elizabeth planted a needle in it.
Proctor is tremendously angry and upset that they’re arresting his wife away. In the beginning of act II he is unsure of his feelings for Abigail and when Elizabeth asks him to go to Salem and denounce Abigail he won’t. But now Abigail has accused Elizabeth he is sure he no longer feelings for her and loves his wife very much. But by this time it’s too late. Proctor tries to physically stop them from taking his wife away but it doesn’t work. Elizabeth tells John she must go with them. John promises he will bring her home. This is a very emotional scene and shows that they love each other deeply.
The opening and ending of act 2 contrasts in many ways. The act begins in the Proctor’s house, which seems far removed from the hysteria that is transpiring in the village, but by the end even the Proctor’s are in the middle of it all. Also John and Elizabeth’s relationship is different in the opening and ending of the act. In the beginning they are arguing over John’s affair and its very frosty, but by the end it John is going to testify against Abigail, and John and Elizabeth’s true love for each other is exposed.
These sections of act 2 prepare the audience for the events that follow. It ends with Proctor desperate to go to court and clear his wife’s name and denounce Abigail, and he will do anything to protect his wife. It also shows how hard it is to convince even the most respectable people that the whole thing is a fraud, so it will be very difficult to prove Elizabeth’s innocence. Elizabeth is also a strong Christian, but she also loves her husband.
This is why she undergoes a moral dilemma, is she to lie to save her husband? Or tell the truth like a good Christian and send her husband to his death? Ironically, each of these two choices actually works in the reverse. It’s also apparent that Proctor is very protective of his good name and reputation in the village, which is one of the reasons why he wont go to Salem and denounce Abigail, as the truth about his adultery would be revealed to the village. Later in act 4 he has to choose whether to keep his good name or sign a false confession and lose it. He decides to keep his good name and is hanged with his good name, reputation and honour intact.
The act is very important in the play as a whole as it explores the relationship between John and Elizabeth, which is vital to the ending of the play. It shows that underneath it all, they both very much love each other and Elizabeth finally forgives John for his affair, and helps you to understand the decisions both characters make in the ending of the play.